Japan Airlines (JAL) has placed a firm order for 31 Airbus A350 XWBs (18 A350-900s and 13 A350-1000s) and has taken options on a further 25 A350 XWBs.
This is Japan Airlines’ first-ever order for Airbus aircraft, though many years ago TOA Domestic Airlines ‒ which changed its name to Japan Air System in 1988 and merged with JAL in 2002 ‒ ordered 32 A300B4-200s and A300B4-600s, all of which were delivered. TOA Domestic Airlines received its first new A300 some three decades ago.
Following its merger with Japan Airlines, Japan Air System became known as Japan Airlines Domestic. Some of Japan Air System’s A300B4-600s were operated by Japan Airlines Domestic following the merger.
JAL’s first order with Airbus is also the first order the manufacturer has received from Japan for the Airbus A350 XWB. JAL and Airbus are aiming for entry into service from 2019, with the airline’s A350 XWBs gradually replacing its aging fleet of Boeing 777-200s and 777-200ERs over a period of approximately six years.
Japan Airlines’ order has increased the firm-order total for the Airbus A350 XWB family to 756 aircraft, 38 customers having placed orders to date. Customers include many of the world’s largest and highest-status international carriers.
Its order makes Japan Airlines the seventh currently operating Japanese carrier to have chosen Airbus’ current family of commercial aircraft, joining AirAsia Japan (soon to be renamed Vanilla Air for operations wholly under ANA’s ownership), All Nippon Airways itself, Jetstar Japan, Peach Aviation, Skymark Airlines and Starflyer.
According to the manufacturer, the number of Airbus aircraft in the region will double during the next five years and the company’s Japanese delivery backlog percentage has tripled from two years ago.
Most of these aircraft are Airbus A320-family jets, the family proving very popular with Japan-based low-cost airlines. Earlier this year, Airbus marked the delivery of its 100th aircraft for a Japanese customer, the aircraft in question being an A320 delivered to Jetstar Japan.
However, Skymark Airlines has to date ordered six Airbus A380 superjumbos and arranged leases of 10 A330-300 twin-engine widebodies, all of which have yet to be delivered.
Airbus says it has fostered strong industrial connections in the region, with Japanese companies such as Bridgestone, Panasonic, Yokogawa Electric and Minebea contributing to all of Airbus’ current-production aircraft. In addition, Toray and Toho Tenax signed a long-term agreement in 2010 to supply carbon fiber for the company’s jetliners.
The manufacturer established an in-country presence in Japan in 2001 with its Airbus Japan operation.
Japanese partnerships with Airbus range from 17 companies participating as suppliers for production of the double-deck A380, to 12 each for the A320 and A330 families, as well as four for the A350 XWB.
Airbus also benefits from research and technology cooperation in Japan. Its efforts there include composite-materials research in partnership with the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA); and cooperation with Japan’s Research and Development Institute for Metal and Composites for Future Industries (RIMCOF) in developing structural health-monitoring technology.
In a typical three-class layout the Airbus A350-900 seats more than 300 passengers on routes as long as 8,100 nautical miles (15,000 kilometers). The A350-1000 is the largest member of the A350 XWB Family, seating 350 passengers on missions up to 8,400nm (15,560km).
All A350 XWB models will be equipped with Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engines.
Over 70 per cent of the A350 XWB’s airframe is made from advanced materials, including carbon-fiber composites (53 per cent), titanium and advanced aluminum alloys.
To date, the A350 XWB MSN1 has completed around 300 flight test hours out of the campaign’s total planned 2,500 hours of flight testing. These are to be achieved by five flight-test A350s over the next 12 months.
Entry into commercial service of the A350-900 is scheduled for the second half of 2014.